Outbreaks across the U.S. have forced officials to declare emergencies. Why are we starting to see the rise of these outbreaks? It dates back to the anti-vax movement.
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Another 90 measles cases were reported across the nation last week, the biggest jump this year as the annual total continued its march toward record levels, federal health officials reported Monday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 555 cases have been confirmed in 20 states in 2019, the second-highest total since measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. almost two decades ago.
The numbers are up sharply from just a week ago, when the total number of cases stood at 465 in 19 states. There were 372 cases last year; the highest total since 2000 was 667 in 2014.
Globally, the World Health Organization reported Monday that cases rose by 300% in the first three months of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018 – following consecutive increases over the past two years.
The U.S. surge has been fueled in part by the anti-vaccination movement – most people who contract measles have not been vaccinated, the CDC said. If one person has the disease, up to 90% of the people close to that person will become infected if they are not immune, the CDC warned.
The states that have reported cases to CDC are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
Most of the U.S. cases this year involve 17 outbreaks – defined as three or more localized cases – in New York, New Jersey, Washington, California and Michigan, the CDC said. The outbreaks are linked to travelers who brought measles back from countries including Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines, the CDC said.
Common measles symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough and a rash that can spread across the entire body. A “very small number of those infected” can develop pneumonia, swelling of the brain or other serious symptoms. And measles can cause pregnant women to deliver prematurely. The last U.S. measles death on record was in 2015.
The World Health Organization says that, even in high-income countries, complications result in hospitalization in up to a quarter of cases and can lead to lifelong disability, from brain damage and blindness to hearing loss.
WHO warns that the disease is a prominent cause of death among young children, despite the availability of an effective vaccine. More than 110,000 people, mostly children, died of measles worldwide in 2017.
WHO said in its statement that global data for the first three months of 2019 is provisional but cited a “clear trend.” Current outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Philippines, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine are causing many deaths – mostly among young children, the agency said.
“Over recent months, spikes in case numbers have also occurred in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States of America as well as Israel, Thailand and Tunisia, as the disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people,” WHO said in a statement.
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